Book Review – Middlegame By Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sometimes (okay : very often), I like reading books without looking at their blurbs. Most of the time, I’ve read reviews about them, but it’s been so long that I genuinely don’t remember anything except oh, I’m pretty sure this friend hated it, that one loved it – which, you know, is wonderful. I love having friends who don’t agree with each other – and of course, with me – on books.

So, Middlegame. I had no idea what kind of novel I was starting, and oh boy, I can see how badly it could have have gone. Somehow though, it didn’t. The abrupt changes of focus that await us at the beginning were something I relished, as someone whose attention wanders all the time. I was intrigued, and it’s not something that happens often.

Let it be clear : I am not one of those readers who can – and power to them, truly! – enjoy a novel purely on an aesthetic level ; honestly? Studying french lit in uni for years truly destroyed the patience I used to have when I was 16 (I mean. I loved French surrealist writers as a teen. Yes, I’m baffled too – have you read their stuff? unintelligible, the whole of them). This is why I’m entirely confident when I say that if I think that Middlegame is a great book, that’s because I really, really enjoyed it. I was fascinated and enthralled from the beginning, and the way we only get answers by fits and starts worked for me. But I also understand why it will be a miss for some readers.

[so here we go]

  • What we know: someone is dying
  • What we don’t know: who the fuck they are

In any case, after the intriguing beginning, the story unfolds in a way that’s more typical, as we follow Dodger and Roger from childhood to adulthood. Well. Except when we don’t. So, really, it’s not exactly typical either, but the shock of the first occurrence has passed, and now we sail.

[interlude]

Four-sentences recap: Roger and Dodger are the heroes main characters of this story. They have been created by an alchemist with a purpose: embody a theory that would allow him to rule the world. Middlegame is their journey. Step by step they progress, trying to carve a leeway in the face of their inexorable doom, and we’re just here, watching them like the useless fools we are… 

[that is not a review?]

On very specific times, I’m a firm believer of the necessity of vague reviews, and this is one of those cases. What you’ll find here is a very indistinct rendition of my feelings, and if that’s not what you’re seeking, that’s okay. I get it. 

so, feelings: I grew so attached to Dodger and Roger, and I’m so relieved and happy that their bond isn’t a romantic one. The two siblings complet each other in a way that doesn’t shy from betrayal and heartbreak, and I felt so much for them. So much. As for the plot, I found it imaginative and spellbinding. So even though I don’t think we’re given enough answers when comes the end, I don’t really care [but, unpopular opinion: I’m not sure a sequel is a good idea, as I’m scared the magic will be gone]. The story feels whole, and that’s enough for me. 

[why only 4 stars then]

I only have one complaint, but that’s not one I’m willing to ignore. It would be the villains, because I like my villains to have layers. Middlegame‘s villains haven’t got any: they’re sketched coarsely, without any speck of grey into them. I’ve wondered if that’s because they’re not human, and it could be an explanation but in the end, it doesn’t change a thing. I love compelling villains too much not to be a bit deflated when it’s obvious they are not. Their motivations are either vague or inexistent: they’re evil for the sake of being evil, and it undermines the novel in my opinion.

Still, a great novel I’m very glad I read.

Content Warnings >>>

very descriptive gore, many scenes with blood depiction, murder, death, drug use, seizures, cutting, attempted suicide, overdosing, natural disasters (earthquakes), and loss of loved ones

Have you read Middlegame? What did you think of it? I’m curious!

6 thoughts on “Book Review – Middlegame By Seanan McGuire

  1. I read Middlegame and loved it! The villains didn’t bother me as much (though they were my least favorite part of the novel). I really loved the storytelling format, but I can see where not all readers would like it.

    I think I’ve heard that book 2 is going to focus on different characters, so maybe the magic will still be there, just different? I’m hoping so, anyway.

      1. I’m partly curious to see how she writes a sequel. Will it have the same re-sets that the first one had? It worked for Middlegame, but I’m not sure if it would work the same for a sequel. Still, I’m excited to find out!

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